By a vote of 78-16 , the Senate last night approved a new rules package that keeps in place the procedural loopholes have turned the Senate into a brick wall for sensible legislation. Under the new rules it will still be possible for a single senator to halt progress on a bill, or even on a motion to proceed to a bill, simply by stating that they intend to filibuster. In recent years, this procedure, commonly known as the “silent filibuster,” has prevented the Senate from passing even the most routine, non-controversial legislation.Read Full Article
President Obama didn't send the American Jobs Act of 2011 to Congress because he thought it would pass and help boost the economy. He knew it would fail, but he wanted to use its failure to back up a talking point for his re-election. The Republicans are blocking the Democrats from passing their job-creation plan, the argument would go. Last night, by a vote of 50-49, Obama got his talking point.Read Full Article
All week Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid [D, NV] and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell [R, KY] have been in a procedural battle over the American Jobs Act. McConnell has been trying to force a vote on the bill in the form of an amendment to the China currency bill that is currently before the Senate in order to show that the Democrats don't even have their own caucus in order on it. Reid says he's willing to vote on the jobs bill, but not in the form of an amendment. He offered to move from the China currency bill to the jobs bill so the Senate can have a full debate and he can offer amendments to help shore up the Democrats. McConnell rejected the offer.
On Thursday afternoon it appeared that McConnell was going to win, sort of. He was planning to force a vote on a motion to suspend the Senate rules that require amendments to be germane and move to his amendment (i.e. the jobs bill). It wouldn't be a vote on the jobs bill, but it would be a vote on voting on the jobs bill, and in his mind that would be enough for justify good talking points.The Senate Parliamentarian determined that McConnell's move was legit and ruled it in order. That's when Reid pulled out the "nuclear option":Read Full Article
At this point we're pretty much all aware that raising the debt ceiling is nothing new. Democrats do it and Republicans do it. It's been done 9 times in the past decade, and corralling the votes to pass the increases each time has been treated as a burden of the majority. The unique problem this time around is that Congress is split between the parties and it's not clear who the majority is. But regardless of the politics of the situation, it's something that pretty much everyone in Congress agrees must be done. And that's the reality that Senate Minority Leader Micth McConnell's [R, KY] plan, which seems to be the leading proposal right now, reflects.Read Full Article
The Senate began debating legislation to reauthorize and extend the the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and the Small Business Technical Transfer (STTR), two of the federal government's largest research and development programs, on March 10. More than a month later, the Senate is still not finished with the bill. That's slow even by Senate standards, especially considering that we're in the middle of a jobs crisis and it's about as close to a "jobs bill" as we've seen recently. So what's the problem?Read Full Article
Later today, the House of Representatives will vote on a bill to repeal health care reform, and it is expected to pass (UPDATE: the repeal bill passed by a vote of 245-189). But don't be fooled -- it is purely symbolic and there is no chance that it will become law. Here are three reasons why.Read Full Article
President Obama is scheduled to sign the Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal Act into law on Wednesday morning. But that's not stopping supporters of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" in Congress from strategizing on how to kill the repeal and maintain the U.S. code barring gay men and women from serving openly in the military. According to the New York Times' Caucus blog, supporters of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" are already working to amend the repeal bill by adding poison-pill amendments to other "must-pass" bills:Read Full Article
There was something odd about the death of the omnibus appropriations bill last week. The bill would have funded the government at the exact level requested by the Republican leadership and of the oft-criticized earmarks in the bill, the top beneficiaries would have been Republicans. The bill was produced through a long, bipartisan, and mostly agreeable committee process.
So why did the Republicans suddenly turn against it?Read Full Article
As things were coming together for Democrats on the tax bill in the House, the omnibus appropriations bill was falling apart in the Senate. Last night, Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid [D, NV] announced on the Senate floor that nine Republicans who who had said they would support the bill had changed their minds and were now planning to vote against it. That left the Democrats with too few votes, and Reid with no choice but to pull the bill from the floor.Read Full Article
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell [R, KY] has reversed course and will now back Sen. Jim DeMint's [R, SC] earmark moratorium for the 112th Congress. A vote on banning earmarks will be held privately in the GOP conference meeting scheduled for tomorrow, but if doesn't pass there, DeMint and his main ally, Sen. Tom Coburn [R, OK], will force a vote on the moratorium on the Senate floor Wednesday as an amendment to the food safety bill. But is the moratorium really a good idea, or just a political stunt?Read Full Article
If Sen. Mitch McConnell [R, KY] actually values making Obama a one-term President above all else as he told the National Journal recently, he and his fellow Republicans will have a perfect chance to muck things up in the very near future when debt ceiling legislation comes up in order to avoid defaulting on the national debt. Howard Fineman at the Huffington Post explained recently that we can expect a vote on the debt limit early in the next session, and that, so far, the Republicans have no plans to go along with it.Read Full Article
The filibuster has a long and controversial history. It's been used (and, quite arguably, abused) by Senators on both sides of the aisle since the time of the Whig Party. After a series of Republican filibusters blocking their legislation, some Democrats are suggesting changes to Senate rules to eliminate or restrict the filibuster.Read Full Article
In the debate over immigration reform, Republicans have generally stuck to a few basic principles over the years. Improve enforcement of the borders, deport all undocumented immigrants, and refocus the immigration system to prioritize people with needed skills. But recently, Republicans in Congress have been moving more and more solidly behind a more radical idea -- denying legal citizenship status to the children who are born in the U.S. of undocumented immigrants.
Sen. Lindsey Graham [R, SC], one of the only Republicans who has engaged with Democrats in comprehensive immigration reform talks, recently came out in support of repealing birthright citizenship protections. “People come here to have babies," Graham said last week in an interview with Fox News. “They come here to drop a child." Graham's endorsement of repealing birthright citizenship was quickly followed up by the two highest ranking Republicans in the Senate. Minority Whip Sen. Jon Kyl [R, AZ] endorsed the idea on Sunday and Minority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell [R, KY] called for hearing on the issue the next day.
In the House, 94 Republicans, more than half of the House Republican Caucus, have signed on as co-sponsors to the Birthright Citizenship Act of 2009, which states that only children who have at least one parent who is a U.S. citizen, a legal permanent resident, or an undocumented immigrant serving in the military can be granted citizenship.Read Full Article
Senate Democrats tried once again last night to overcome a budget point of order against their unemployment insurance/tax extenders bill, this time on a pared-down version, and failed 56-40. Sixty votes were needed. Sen. Ben Nelson [D, NE] and Sen. Joe Lieberman [I, CT] joined all Republicans in voting down the bill.
The path forward from here is unclear to say the least. Majority Leader Harry Reid [D, NV] tried after the failing vote to pass each piece of the bill -- the unemployment benefits, the doc-fix, the Medicaid money -- as stand-alone measures by unanimous consent. But, each time, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell [R, KY] objected, citing deficit concerns. McConnell then offered to pass by unanimous consent a version of the bill that would be paid for with stimulus funds, but Reid objected to that.Read Full Article
UPDATE: The Republicans have finally relented. They are going to let a unaimous consent agreement go through and proceed to an up or down vote on whether or not to begin debate.
Senate Democrats are planning an all-night debate on debating financial reform legislation -- the Restoring American Financial Stability Act of 2010.Read Full Article